The Lady Who Would Blow Up Her Home.
My mobile phone suddenly rang at about 10.00pm. It jerked me awake. It was one of the church’s pastors who were on duty that evening. The police had called him and passed on an urgent message for me to return call. A female officer answered and told me where she was. Still in a stupor, I immediately recognised the location. “Can you come straight away? Your client, Clare, will not speak to anyone except you,” she requested emphatically. In a few minutes, I was in a cab travelling to the other end of the island.
Earlier that evening, Clare had a fight with James, her husband, and it had descended into a punch up. The mutual aggravation had brought up a historical series of accumulated hurts and grievances that triggered, once again, Clare’s depression. Their neighbours alerted the police, but Clare would not speak with any of the officers, and barricaded herself in the kitchen. A little later, she threatened to turn the gas supply on to blow up their apartment, unless she could talk with me. I was aware of her circumstances, as Clare had just begun counselling with me for a month prior to this incident. It was the first time I had met James, as he resisted counselling at this stage.
Clare initially refused to allow James into the kitchen, and that complicated clarification of their conflict. After shuttling between the two for a while, I finally got them together. We agreed to a compromise and truce, and James agreed to a couple’s session with Clare at my office during the coming week. By the time we were done, it was one in the morning. The police suicide contingent, relieved that the threat had been markedly reduced, left, with my assurance that James and Clare would keep the peace, at least for a few days. They wanted my contact number as this was not the first time they had been summoned to this home, with a threatened suicide.
Clare had come from a fairly abusive background. As an orphan, she spent most of her childhood with her maternal grandmother. Being a very conservative and strict woman, she did not tolerate well Clare’s inquisitive mind and outgoing nature. She remembered that her grandmother would scold her whenever she needed some clarification over her school work, and would say that a girl’s place is in the home and there is no point studying too hard at school. Housework took priority over any homework from school. Clare was responsible for the daily cleanliness of the house, preparing breakfasts and dinners, marketing, daily laundry and ironing, and washing-up. With any slip-ups, discipline was meted out in the form of canings and confinement. If she broke crockery, more severe beatings followed. Being a conscientious girl, she always worried about her school performance, and her depression began as a teenager in secondary school. Clare said that her illness grew worse after she started working, as she had very high expectations of herself – working long hours, missing out on sleep, and not eating well. James’ demanding lifestyle as a regional sales manager did not alleviate her stresses, as they entertained a great deal and he was not empathetic towards her depression; “Snap out of it,” he would repeatedly complain! Statements like this did not help Clare cope with her condition.